L to R: Basic Literacy Student Herman Nolberto and LVGW Tutor Paul Vitarelli
Herman and Paul have been working together since 2012. They are the perfect example of how motivation, persistence, patience, and that special tutor-student relationship can make a difference in the lives of the adult learner and the volunteer.
Herman Nolberto knows the value of literacy. “What brought me here to Literacy Volunteers is wanting a better life and understanding of life, wanting to better help myself and not always needing assistance.”
Herman confided that, before coming to Literacy Volunteers, it was a struggle to understand and pay bills; take his kids to the doctor, read medicine labels, give them the right medicine and the right amount; use a GPS and read street signs; shop at the store. “I couldn’t understand what was on the labels, what was in the food. At my job, I would be afraid that a coworker who helped me with paperwork might not be at work that day.
“It’s very hard to be an adult and do things that other people don’t think about. Literacy Volunteers made it easier to be an adult. Without this program, I was blind—I couldn’t see. I realize there is a whole world out there through the Internet, newspapers, books, magazines. “Now I can go to the store and get the sales. I can read how much milk costs and get cheese without taking someone with me. I can have $20 and not be afraid that I will go over (the total).”
Though learning can be a challenge, Herman is grateful for the help of his LVGW tutor, Paul Vitarelli. “Paul is more than a tutor: he is my mentor, my role model, my go-to guy in life, my advisor. He is a very good teacher. He doesn’t pressure me; he lets me work at my own pace. He lets me make mistakes and shows me how to fix them. He doesn’t yell at me. If you don’t make a person sweat when they are trying to learn, learning is fun. We need more Pauls in the world.”
Herman has many goals. “I want to get into training for the construction trade, get my GED, and attend college. I am able to learn, and I want to learn. Being able to read makes me more hungry for knowledge. One day, I hope to be able to give back to my community.”
Paul shares his thoughts on being an adult literacy tutor:
“I have been a volunteer tutor with LVGW for over four years. It has gone by so quickly that it doesn’t seem possible. It truly is a labor of love. This is one of life’s endeavors that is rewarding beyond initial expectations.
“I volunteered to participate in the program to keep busy outside of the home. I had just retired and it seemed like a good idea. It has gone way beyond that. I tutor twice weekly and look forward to each session with my student. There is an old cliche, ‘I have been around the block.’ It means that you have gained life experiences that perhaps can be of use to others in an advisory capacity. This is exactly what has happened between my student and me. This is truly one of the most rewarding activities that I have ever experienced.
“Herman and I began this educational journey four years ago and have never looked back. When we started, he was challenged by basic word structure, sentences, letter and word sounds, basic math, road signs, labels, and many other basic literacy issues. He had never spoken to more than a few people at the same time and was unsure of his ability to communicate with others at any level. Four years later, he has presented at “Hear My Voice” four times in front of over a hundred people. He was able to prepare and present his writings to total strangers with calm and a self-confidence that would have seemed unthinkable a short time ago. He can now conduct personal, financial, and other transactions. He is enrolled in the pre-apprenticeship program at OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Center in Waterbury) and receives math tutoring twice weekly.
Herman is a soft spoken, respectful guy who honors his commitments. When we first began, he lived about three miles away from the library. He did not have a vehicle at the time. He would walk to the library in all kinds of weather including freezing cold and 90+ degree temperatures. He thanks me for my help at every session. I pray to God every day that he will provide me with the skills to help Herman so that he can have a better life for himself and his family. Much has been accomplished, but there is still much to be done. In the words of Robert Frost, ‘Miles to go before we sleep.’”
Update on Herman and Paul:
In February 2017, Herman was selected to appear in the Project Literacy “First Words” public awareness campaign. Herman and Paul traveled to New York and then to Hackensack NJ for the filming. We are grateful to them both for their efforts!
First Words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpIR6cbPVWI
How Literacy Helps People Make the Most of Technology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbekd_GRUms